If Bleak Was a Color

Dear graduates, you all come from the Middle East, from Syria, born and raised, but also from Lebanon, where you have lived and studied. Well, neither Syria nor Lebanon figure anywhere among the best countries of the world, nor among the best to raise your children in, nor among the safest countries to live in. It is very likely that they rank somewhere near the very end of such listings.  Dr. Nadim Nassar, Speaker of the 87th Commencement of the Near East School of Theology, Beirut  June 15, 2019

The color of hope is bright.  It’s fresh and cheerful and lighthearted.  I’m currently reading Embracing Hopelessness by Miguel de la Torre (which I strongly recommend) and there are no bright colors.  Dr. de la Torre writes:

Hope, as a middle-class privilege, soothes the conscience of those complicit with oppressive structures, lulling them to do nothing except look forward to a salvific future where every wrong will be righted and every tear wiped away, while numbing themselves to the pain of those oppressed, lest that pain motivate them to take radical action.  Hope is possible when privilege allows for a future.

We who hope have physical evidence that bad days will become good days very shortly, that wounds will be healed in good time, that even though we are crashing, there is a safety net that will embrace us and make us safe again.

Millions of people in the world do not have this.  Their bad days continue to be quite bad.  Their wounds fester and become life threatening.  They crash and then crash again and then crash again – because there is no safety net.

According to Dr. Nassar’s commencement address:

In 2018, last year, and for the second year in a row, Switzerland ranked as the world’s best country, followed by Canada, Sweden, Germany, United Kingdom, Japan, Sweden, Australia, United States, France, Netherlands. Nowhere on the list can any country from the Middle East be found; actually, there is no ranking for them.  There is also such a thing as a research analysis report on the best country to raise children in: Denmark ranks first here, then Sweden, Norway, Finland, Canada… Again, no Middle Eastern country is anywhere in

As for me, I am 1) enormously privileged and 2) not without hope – especially when I see this photograph of the 2019 graduates of NESSL (and look at all those women) who are hoping against hope that they will be called to serve as pastors of Christian churches in Syria and Lebanon, two extraordinary countries in spite of being crushed for decades.  “Syrian refugee” has become an everyday term for many of our congregations.  But here we see people of hope who believe there is a future for the Church of Jesus in these war ravaged nations.

We who hope cannot forget those who dwell in hopelessness.  In fact, if we choose to put them out of our minds and ourselves dwell in the most selfish kind of hope (i.e. If my people and I are okay, then all is well.) then we might as well admit that we are not Christian.  We are not followers of Jesus.  We are not “good people.”  We are simple people who reinforce oppression and injustice.

So much for a perky Wednesday post.  But bleak is a color too.

Images of the Pantone color Opaque Couche which has been voted one of the ugliest colors ever created and of the 2019 graduating class of the Near East School of Theology in Beirut.

2 responses to “If Bleak Was a Color

  1. foothillspresby

    Thank you Jan

    Debbie Foster
    Associate Stated Clerk
    Foothills Presbytery
    864-617-9292 (mobile)


  2. Amgad Beblawi

    Powerful reflections from NEST. Thank you, Jan. In his book, Faith in the Face of Empire, Mitri Raheb explains how his faith gives him hope, and how hope enables him to imagine a better future:

    “We [Middle Eastern Christians] must live with our feet firmly grounded in the reality of this world with its empires, yet, at the same time, be engaged in creating with our own hands a foretaste of the kingdom to come…. Hope doesn’t wait for vision to appear. Hope is vision in action today…. Hope is faith in action in the face of the empire. Hope is what we do today.”


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